by Steve Perkins
Most fans know that Stryper's 2005 release titled Reborn was originally intended as a Michael Sweet solo project. Instead, the band reformed with bassist Tracy Ferrie and released it as one of their own. It was a clear departure from their classic sound of the '80s and included hints of nu metal, a style known for drawing on other musical influences such as alternative, funk, and grunge, all of which can be heard on Reborn.
I was thrilled when it came out and played it endlessly. It was an exciting new musical direction for the band, and I was on board with it. In the more than fifteen years since its release, I have continued to enjoy it just as much as I did in 2005. The lyrics are deep and the music is hard and aggressive, just the way I like it.
Now here we are in 2021, and Michael Sweet has decided to re-release the album under his own name. as he says on his website, "After years of requests and a lot of thought, I decided to release the original versions/tracks and add some things that I felt were always missing: guitar solos, high vocal notes, more rhythm guitars, synth parts and an alternative version of 'Passion.'" The question we have to answer is whether this is a good thing.
My first step was to create a playlist that included the songs from each album in alternating order. In other words, the first track was "Open Your Eyes" from the Stryper album followed by the same song off the Michael Sweet album and so on. As I began listening to this song from Reborn Again, I noticed that it sounded a bit cleaner, and had that been the only difference, I doubt I would have recommended the new album, but then the guitar solo hit and my eyes flew open. Literally. I was blown away and suddenly couldn't wait to hear each of the others songs paired with the 2005 versions.
Michael Sweet certainly achieved what he set out to do. There are indeed additional synth and rhythm guitar parts and high notes, but what really knock me out are the guitar solos, and for my money, these make this an entirely new album. Overall the feeling is heavier in places, perhaps even darker.
Let's also not overlook the cover by Stan Decker, who has worked with Sweet before on the covers of the most recent Stryper albums as well as Sweet & Lynch. For me an album is a whole work of art, from the lyrics to the music to any graphics included in the packaging, and Decker continues his powerful imagery and color scheme on this cover.
In short, I give this five of five stars. I can listen to the 2005 Stryper album and then this one and have two completely different musical experiences, each of which is a shot of powerful, aggressive rock.
Title: Reborn Again
Artist: Michael Sweet
Open Your Eyes
When Did I See You Cry
Make You Mine (spelled Made You Mind on the first issue of the CD)
If I Die
Wait For You
Ten Thousand Years